Session C1- A consultant's view of fish restoration in the Santee Basin

The Santee Cooper Basin in South Carolina has historically been an important focal point for anadromous fish restoration since the 1970s. The development of the St Stephens fish lift at the the Corps of Engineers dam re-established potential migration routes to inland waters and continues to be a primary interest in restoring stocks of American shad, blueback herring and sturgeon species. In 2001 the Santee Cooper Basin Diadromous Fish Restoration Plan (Plan) introduced more detailed resource management objectives to restore species to historical levels. As FERC licensed projects entered into relicensing efforts, various approaches have been undertaken to address the sensitive issue of fish passage at hydropower projects. From a consultant's perspective, frequently and often rightly so Licensee's question the need to implement fish passage when the "science" is lacking to support huge capital investments in projects operating on marginal economics. Alternatively, resource agencies responsible for developing Section 18 fish way prescriptions are tasked with developing mandatory conditions during the relicensing proceedings and within the allotted regulatory timelines. These two polarizing views can and typically do lead to significant delays in implementation of fish ways, minimum flows or other enhancements that benefit the project resources. However, in recent cases within the Santee Basin, fish restoration has been dealt with successfully via tow entirely different mechanisms; one through actual fish way construction and one through deferment of passage implementation by in turn supporting a biological program that included the potential for earl implementation at a neighboring project. In both cases, fish restoration remained the primary objectives with significant consideration given to project related concerns expressed by the Licensee. This presentation will explore fish restoration alternatives that can be accomplished through developing solid working relationships, incorporating sound biological data in decision making and giving projects economics due consideration.
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